Romans 13

Kailey and I started this website because we feel it is so essential for people to seek peace and reconciliation with those around us and with those who are different from us. An important component of seeking true reconciliation is leaning in to conflict. We will not be able to truly get passed our problems, differences and misconceptions of each other if we avoid conflict. Because of that approach, we will often find ourselves having tough conversations on topics that can spark a wide variety of emotions; and honestly, sometimes Kailey and I will go directly into a touchy subject, because hard conversations may spark severe emotions, but those conversations can also initiate the most beautiful kind of growth. While the goal of these conversations is not for everyone to agree, they can certainly help us to understand different perspectives, which ultimately leads us towards reconciliation.

However, there are other times when people need to be called out for being flat-out, 100 percent wrong.

As am I am sure most of you are aware, the news was filled with reporting on the immigration policy of the United States that involved separating children from their families as immigrants came into the United States. According to several different sources, between April 18 and May 31, there were almost 2,000 immigrant children separated from their families.

This is wrong.

It’s mind blowing that anyone even has to label this as wrong, because it is so clearly inhumane. I haven’t even brought Jesus into this yet. Purely from a humans living-together-in-the-same-planet perspective, separating children from parents is wrong. These are not violent criminals who pose an immediate threat to the safety of other people (despite what many sources and people may try to say), and in fact, some of the immigrants who had their children taken away are seeking asylum, which is not illegal immigration.

Another layer of this issue is when the Attorney General of the United States cited Romans chapter 13 as a defense for the policy of separating children from their families.

Here is the verse he quoted:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” – Romans 13:1-2

One aspect of Beauty Saves is trying to tell people’s stories to make us all realize that despite someone having a drastically different worldview than us, we really aren’t that different. The experiences that people have shape the way they think. If our experiences were different, we may think in a very different way also. For that reason, we try to look at all sides and perspectives of a topic. That being said, there is no other side to separating kids from their families. There is no alternative perspective that is understandable.

Using the Bible to defend separating children from their families is 100 percent wrong, grotesque and absolutely shameful… morally and Biblically.

Romans 13 is not a mandate that Christians are commanded to always follow every law set forth by the government. First and foremost, Christians are commanded to follow God’s law. If a governmental law contradicts God’s law, then Christians are commanded to act in a way that is consistent with God’s law.

A couple of examples:

Acts 5

Two apostles were in Jerusalem preaching in the name of Jesus and performing “many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12). The Sanhedrin was very upset by this and threw the apostles in jail.

Quick aside… if you don’t know what “The Sanhedrin” is, don’t worry. I wasn’t sure either, so I looked it up. The Sanhedrin was an assembly of rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal in every city in ancient Israel. A tribunal is any person or entity that has the authority to judge, adjudicate on or determine claims or disputes. In other words, the Sanhedrin was the court of ancient Israel; you might even call them a “governing authority.”

Back to Acts 5… So the apostles were thrown in jail, freed by an angel of the Lord and then continued teaching the people (Acts 5:19-25). The apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned by the high priest, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name… yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teachings and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” (Acts 5:28). “This man” being Jesus. The apostles’ response was to the point:

“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The governing authority directly gave the apostles an order. But the order violated what they were commanded to do by God, so they followed God. They did not violate Romans 13 in doing so. They just understood the true meaning behind their calling as Christians.

Daniel 3

There was a king named Nebuchadnezzar who “made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide… Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (Daniel 3:1, 4-6).

Nothing like forced patriotism…

In Daniel chapter 3, a “government” official made a mandate for all people to obey. Now, clearly this is in violation of God’s law. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” That is one of the Ten Commandments. Idol worship is universally agreed upon to be a no-no in Christian circles.

Later in Daniel chapter three, three guys named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are brought to the king because they do not fall down and worship the golden image and they are not serving King Nebuchadnezzar’s gods. When questioned by the king, the three respond, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

King Nebuchadnezzar was furious and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace. Don’t worry (SPOILER ALERT!!), the three are thrown into the fiery furnace, but they are saved by God. They come out of the furnace with no burns, their clothes perfectly fine and not even the smell of fire on them.

Clearly, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego disobeyed the law set forth by the governing authorities, but clearly they did not bring judgment on themselves – quite the opposite. God saved them from punishment by the authorities, because they chose to follow God’s law, not the laws of those in authority, which directly contradicted God’s law.

Christians and Immigrants

Now, an important question is, how are Christians commanded to treat immigrants? What are the commands that supersede Romans 13?

The Bible is abundantly clear…

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”

Exodus 23:9 – Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 27:19 – “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.”

Malachi 3:5 – “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

I do not think the Bible could be clearer on how Christians are called to treat foreigners. Christians are called to care fore them and love them.

Also, let’s not forget, that Jesus was an immigrant.

In Matthew chapter 2, Jesus, Mary and Joseph flee their home and go to Egypt to escape King Herod who was looking for Jesus and wanted to kill him. You might say, that Jesus once fled his home country in search of asylum in a foreign land.

I am horrified by so many aspects of what is going on in our country and specifically the way our government has decided to unjustly treat immigrants. I am also horrified that any Christian would use the Bible to justify injustice. Unfortunately, it has happened before. Romans 13 has been used to justify slavery, white supremacy and to discredit social justice movements like Black Lives Matter.

If you are not a Christian, let me just say that the way the way the Attorney General used the Bible and the arrogance and hypocrisy that so often spews from many Christians mouths in no way reflects the heart of the true Jesus. I understand your hesitancy or even anger towards the religion of Christianity. But let me assure you, that the true heart of Jesus has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with love and justice.

I leave you with one final passage, straight from Jesus:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take you inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” 

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Matthew 25:34-46

 

 

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